Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Martha Mihalick, editor at Greenwillow, talks about "What is Voice and Why do Editors go Ga-Ga over it?"

Friday Evening with Martha Mihalick
What is Voice and Why do Editors Go Ga-Ga over it?
My notes and my take on Martha's session on VOICE.

From conferences to the very mouth of an editor, "VOICE" is the buzz word. In writing circles everywhere they talk about how important "VOICE" is. But I've never been clear entirely what it means, until Martha Mihalik's session on voice. Good voice is something you notice when you read it, but when you are the writer, how do you know that you have it?

Martha broke down "Voice" as having eight elements. Though each element is distinct, it's important that they all work together and consistently support one another.

The Short version: Voice is the "Story teller"

1) Language = the vocabulary and dialect of your characters and narrator
2) Syntax and rhythm = how you put together sentences and paragraphs. How do you form them and how do they vary?
3) Tone = How do your characters sound? Are they cheerful, sarcastic, hopeful, dark. . . .
4) Imagery and symbolism
5) Theme = the emotional underlying emotional drive of the story.
6) World View = Where does the story take place? How would the characters think? what would they see? what is their culture? How does the world of the character effect his/her thinking and views.
7) Pacing = Leisurely or fast?
8) Structure = how it's put together, are the characters complex or simple?

So . . . why is voice so important? What's the big deal?
The answer is simple. There are only a handful of different plots that can be told. The "voice" is what makes the telling of the same ol' plots unique and interesting. It's what draws the reader in gives the story vitality and an air of authenticity.

Martha's Advice: Don't write to follow a trend. Write from your heart. If you force your story, the voice will come across as being "fake" or not authentic and will also seem as if the author doesn't have and opinion of the story.

A few of Martha's examples of books with good voice:
Stardust by Neil Gaiman
The Secret Life of Sparrow Delaney by Suzanne Harper
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

A few of my examples of books with good voice:
Crispin and the Cross of Lead; Midnight Magic by Avi
Dovey Coe, By Frances O'Roark Dowell
The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous, by Suzanne Crowley

Tomorrow I will focus on Krista Marino's topic of Point of View and how it can help or hurt your story.


Anonymous said...

That's a nice list to have! I'm going to jot that down! Thanks for posting.


Karen Lee said...

Thanks Christy - Great list and always wonderful to have specifics although the whole thing is still magic and mystery to me.